Chapter 13: Secrets
Reports are now coming in of another devastating round of tsunamis in South-East Asia. Casualties are estimated in the hundreds; however, the total would have been much higher if not for the arrival of Superman. Witnesses are reporting that the superhero has single-handedly saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives by holding back the waves with his powerful breath, allowing people to flee ahead of the floodwaters… The anchorwoman spoke these words breathlessly from the television monitor anchored in the corner.
“He keeps busy, doesn’t he?” Richard commented, taking a sip of soda.
Well, at least I know his excuse for cutting off our conversation was valid… Lois mused, and then answered aloud, “Yes. I don’t know how he does it.” She tried to turn her eyes back to her fiancé. When she did, she found him regarding her with a steady, penetrating gaze. She quickly turned her attention to her salad, and speared a bit of lettuce.
“He certainly seems to have made a full recovery, even though he’s only been out of the hospital a couple of days.” She nodded noncommittally in agreement, keeping her eyes downward as she chewed. But he wasn’t done. “Tell me. When you saw him last, did he look well?”
Her head snapped up. His eyes still held the same penetrating gaze, but a tinge of hurt seemed reflected there. “I haven’t…” she began to deny, but then let it drop. She had never liked lying to Richard – she hated it, actually – and now was as good a time as any to make good on her promise to herself that she would tell him everything. She set down her fork before continuing, “…he seemed fine the last time I saw him.”
His lips tightened painfully. She had admitted it, and even though that was probably what he was trying to get her to say, it didn’t lessen the blow. “And when was that, exactly?” he pressed, his reporter’s training coming through.
She considered her answer. As much as she was still angry with Clark for lying to her for years, she deeply felt the weight of his secret. Is this what it’s like? To keep an important truth from someone you love, because you fear they won’t be able to handle it? She finally settled on a half-truth, despising its necessity. “Earlier today. Clark and I got into a spot of trouble, and Superman got us out of it.”
Luckily he didn’t delve deeper into her story. “And you didn’t think this was important enough to tell me earlier?”
Lord knows he has every right to be mad… But for some reason, he seemed less angry than disappointed. In a way, that was worse for her. “It was important, Richard… but it wasn’t the first time I’d seen him since he got out of the hospital.” I’ve spent more time around him than I’ve spent around you these last few days…
“Not the first time.” He took a deep breath. Then he asked quietly, a note of pleading in his voice, “Please be honest with me, Lois. Is there something going on between you?”
What a complicated question! She wanted to be as honest as possible, though. He had always been good to her. He had been everything Clark hadn’t been while the Kryptonian had been gallivanting through the stars. And so, she started with an answer that was as close to the truth as she could get. “No… and yes. No, we aren’t involved. I would never cheat on you, Richard. You are too important to me.” She paused, unsure that she was ready to come out with the rest of it just yet.
But he was just as aware as she was that the second half of the question had not been answered. “But?”
“But…” she swallowed, and looked at her hands, words choking in her throat. “But there is something between us. Or I should say… someone.”
“Jason.” The name fell heavily from his mouth.
A little shocked, she nodded and looked back up into his eyes. He had known – for how long? How did he figure it out?
She never got the chance to ask. Richard’s right hand tightened around his napkin. He kept his voice level as he accused, “And you’ve let me believe, all this time, that he was my son?”
“I believed it myself!” she blurted, overly loud. Conversations all around them quieted for a moment, and they both studied their meals until the buzz around them returned to normal. In a quieter, but no less urgent voice, she said, “Richard, you have to believe me. I had no idea until after Superman came back that it could even be possible!”
He laughed mirthlessly. “Oh, come on. I know my uncle says you can’t write worth a damn about sex, but you and I both know you’re no stranger to it. If you and Superman had a relationship, and then you turned up pregnant a few months later, even you, no, especially you should have known it was a possibility.” He shook his head disbelievingly. “I knew there was more behind your hurt and anger about Superman’s disappearance than you were letting on…”
She wanted to take him by the shoulders and shake him. No, Richard! I didn’t know! He took it away from me! If the bastard had only stayed around, you never would have been more than a passing blip on my radar! Tears were coming to her eyes again. She blinked them away harshly, trying to find the right words to say. “Richard… I…”
He stood suddenly, tossing a few bills on the table. “I love you, Lois. But if you didn’t care about me enough to tell me something like this… had to wait until even I could have figured it out for myself… then obviously you aren’t ready to commit to us, yet.”
She shook her head violently, unable to talk. She reached a pleading hand toward him. He looked down at the sparkling engagement ring on her hand, and asked, words cutting deeply, “Tell me. Was this why you would never set a date? Was I just a placeholder until the real groom came back?”
But he didn’t let her respond. He spun on his heel and left the café, not looking back.
She slowly dropped her hand to her side, silent tears running down her face. “But I didn’t know. I never even suspected until I saw his face again…” she whispered. What could she say to make him believe her though? ‘Superman erased my memory. I didn’t remember anything until I kissed him again…’ Oh, that would go over well. She was damned every which way she turned. Unable to tell the man she had loved for five years the truth without harming the one she had loved before him.
She finally admitted to herself that she did feel something for Clark now, something other than searing pain, betrayal and anger over what he had done to her. What was she going to do? “Clark…” she whispered. “I can’t take it anymore. I know the world needs you… but what about me?” She covered her face with her hands and sobbed quietly, not caring who saw.
A few minutes later, she felt a presence beside her. Assuming it was the waitress depositing the check, she grabbed her napkin and dabbed at her eyes. She reached below her seat for her purse, saying, “Just a minute, let me get my card…” and then saw a pair of brown slacks beside her. She followed them up with her eyes, and stopped, astonished. “Clark?”
He was there, in the flesh, not thousands of miles away saving people. Why? He smiled kindly, sadly, and took the chair that Richard had vacated so suddenly.
“So he knows.” With one resigned sentence, Clark encapsulated the whole horrible fight she and Richard had just had.
She sniffled, shutting her eyes to wipe at them again. There was no need to wonder how he knew. He had told her not long ago that he could hear everything. She was not surprised to learn he had stayed tuned into her, even while working to rescue victims a half a world away. “Yes. And I couldn’t explain to him why I never told him.”
“Lois, it’s not your fault…”
“Then whose fault is it?” She couldn’t keep it in any longer. “Clark. I know you did something to me.”
His eyes widened, but she was sure her earlier outburst about wiping the slate clean had warned him already. “I did. And I’ve never been sorrier about anything in my entire life.”
She began to say, ‘Why did you do it?’ But then it was her turn to stand suddenly. They were going to talk about this. No interruptions, no emergencies. “And you’re going to tell me why. But not here. I want you to take me there. Where it all happened.” His blue eyes managed to widen even further.
She came around to take his hand in hers, the first time she had voluntarily touched him since the fateful kiss. “Take me to the Fortress.”
Next: Chapter 14: Answers